Monte Hall Takes Over The Waukesha County Courthouse
There was a time under former District Attorney Paul Bucher when Waukesha County had a reputation for being a place where there were real consequences for people who committed crimes. Not any more. Instead the new policy appears to be "take no prisoners" - except not in a good way.
Between the DA's Office falling all over itself to do it's best impression of Monte Hall and at least a couple of judges going out of their way to act like Carol Merrill trying to give away what's behind Door Number 3, Waukesha County is fast becoming a very user friendly place to commit crimes. Just ask Leonard Litt (pictured above), this week's "Big Deal" winner.
About 4 a.m. on May 8, Litt used his pick up truck to try to run Eileen Belongea off the road as she was driving to work. In doing so, he smashed into her car several times at a high rate of speed. Thankfully, Belongea was able to get away from Litt and call 911.
Authorities ultimately found Litt's truck abandoned in a nearby grocery store parking lot. He was observed walking through several Waukesha yards and eventually found hiding barefoot in a tree! His blood-alcohol level was .23. In his statement to police, Litt said that he thought it was his father that he was ramming. Like that makes it okay!
In any event, Litt was charged with 1st-Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 12 1/2 years. He was also charged with hit and run - a misdemeanor.
Yesterday, in an appearance before Waukesha Circuit Court Judge Lee Dreyfus, Litt pled guilty to a reduced charge of 2nd-Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety. The Hit and Run charge was dismissed - but read in.
Under the reduced charge, Litt was still exposed to up to 10 years in prison. Judge Dreyfus did not, however, send him to prison for ten years - or five years - or three years. Actually, Judge Dreyfus didn't send Litt to prison at all. Instead, while he sentenced Litt to 3 1/2 years in prison, he stayed the sentence! He then put Litt on probation for four years with the condition that the first year be served in the Waukesha County Jail with work release privileges. To add insult to injury, he stayed the last 60 days of the work release sentence.
In defense of Judge Dreyfus, I'm told that the sentence he ultimately imposed actually exceeded that recommended by the DA's Office!
With credit for time served, Litt will be completely free in no more than eight months. However, during those eight months, he's free to leave jail for "work, work search, education, treatment, counseling and child care". I mean, why not just book him a room at the Country Suites and be done with it?
I understand that there were some questions about whether Litt's confession would have been admissible had this case gone to trial. The correct response to this concern is "so what"!
You have a victim who described the vehicle that struck her repeatedly, you have the defendant's abandoned car (which is the vehicle in question) and the defendant hiding barefoot in a tree. Frankly, you don't need Clarence Darrow or F. Lee Bailey or even Jeff Wagner to successfully prosecute a case like this. Any First-year law student should have been able to do it. Unfortunately, I guess they were short of first-year law students at the DA's Office.
This is, of course, not the first time that the DA's Office has gone into the tank on a criminal matter. It's also not the first time that Judge Dreyfus has decided to sentence more with a silk glove than an iron fist. One can only hope that this sentencing will have less tragic results than the last time Judge Dreyfus decided to give someone a break.
On a personal level, I like both Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel (pictured above) and Judge Dreyfus. It just seems to me that they must have spent too much time in their youth watching "Let's Make A Deal". Both would do well to remember that the voters didn't elect them to impersonate either Monte Hall or Carol Merrill.